in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Simply named The Slot, this narrow siltstone canyon provides one of the most exciting hikes in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This 0.8-mike trek is capped off with a passage beneath a gravity-defying rock span. This short hike has just 100 feet of elevation loss, but the memory will be much more profound.
The Slot lacks a defined trail marker. From the parking area, look for footprints leading down into the ravine below. Left of the trailhead, just to the right of a dirt road continuing east, is a wide path that appears to descend into the canyon. This is not the way. The winding trail cliffs out above a dry falls in a side canyon above The Slot. The correct route is the narrow steep-looking track that drops right off the rim of the ravine, straight ahead from the parking area.
Slowly descend into the trench. The trail is steep, but not nearly as steep as it looks from above, dropping less than fifty feet. There are no more optical illusions from here, just eye-popping natural wonders.
Turn left and venture down to The Slot. The siltstone walls grow taller and closer together. A tenth of a mile from the start, the canyon becomes quite narrow. Hopefully you did not eat a big breakfast, because you will need to squeeze through course walls that are shoulder width apart, and less in places.
The shaded slot provides cool relief from the desert above. Progress through the narrows for 0.3 miles to the highlight of the trek, a slanted rock slab bridging a narrow gap in the canyon. This scepter-shaped block appears to have broken off one wall and come to a comfortable resting place between the two. The precarious feature could fall at any moment, but it remains lodged overhead, trapped in some loophole of the earth’s gravitational pull.
Not far below, the canyon widens and the trail meets the top of a jeep road. One option is to walk down this road a ways to a junction, and turn left to loop back to the start, adding over a mile to the hike. It is probably better to turn around when you meet the road and hike back up through the slot. The trail is enjoyable a second time (and several times more).
To the north of the parking area, a trail ascends to the 1,207-foot summit of West Butte in the Borrego Mountains. From the summit, one can hike west along a ridge to the dirt road below The Slot, and return to the trailhead through the canyon for a 3.5-mile loop.
No permit is required to hike The Slot in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. However, a day use fee is now charged to park in the Slot Canyon parking area (open sunrise to sunset). The parking fee is $10 per vehicle (or $9 for seniors) so get out and enjoy (Prices as of 2022).
To get to the trailhead: From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 11.5 miles southeast on Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on Route 78 East, drive 1.5 miles, and turn left (north) on a dirt road marked Buttes Pass. Drive one mile up this dirt road to a fork, and continue to the left up Borrego Mountain Wash. Go another mile to the parking area for The Slot. Low clearance vehicles should be able to drive all the way to the trailhead at the end of the sandy dirt road.
Trailhead address: Borrego Mountain Wash, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Trailhead coordinates: 33.18213, -116.21417 (33° 10′ 55.7″N 116° 12′ 51″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding California Desert trails and campgrounds.
|Kenyon Overlook Trail |
This 1.15-mile loop sets out from Yaqui Pass to reach an incredible viewpoint across Mescal Bajada.
|Yaqui Well Trail |
This 1.6-mile out and back hike on a self-guided nature trail explores area botany and history, crossing a wash to reach a rare desert water source.
|Narrows Earth Trail |
This 0.5-mile self-guided hike explores the geology of the park.
|Calcite Mine Trail |
This 4.25-mile trek climbs 600 feet to a historic mine site, exploring exciting narrows along the way.
|Borrego Palm Canyon Trail |
This 3.25-mile loop visits a popular palm tree oasis in a canyon west of Borrego Springs.
|Hellhole Canyon Trail to Maidenhair Falls |
This 5.5-mile hike visits a 20-foot waterfall in a canyon near Borrego Springs, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day in the California Desert.
|Pictograph Trail |
This 1.8-mile hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
|Morteros Trail |
This 0.6-mile hike visits a village of boulders once occupied by Kumeyaay Indians who left behind Morteros, grinding bowls carved into the rock.
|Rainbow Canyon Trail |
This 2.2-mile adventure follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
|Elephant Trees Trail |
This easy one-mile loop offers a lesson in desert botany including the rare elephant tree.
|Wind Caves Trail |
This 1.25-mile round trip hike climbs 250 feet to a sandstone formation that begs to be explored.
|Hikes in the California Desert |
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|Grotto Canyon in Death Valley |
This 2 to 4 mile hike requires a bit of climbing and is a lesser-visited trail in Death Valley.
|Sidewinder Canyon in Death Valley |
This 4 to 7 mile hike visits narrow slot canyons full of pour-overs, carve outs, and dark passages that beg to be explored.
|Anza-Borrego Desert Campgrounds |
Four developed campgrounds, eight primitive campgrounds, and extensive roadside camping accommodate visits to California's largest state park.
|Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers |
The desert bloom brings bursts of color to barrel cactus, beavertail cactus, ocotillo, and more.
[…] to big and not suitable for most back roads. But we were able to go explore an area called “The Slot”. It’s a short hike but very interesting as you descend into a slot canyon which narrows […]
[…] #4: The Slot. Simply titled “The Slot”, this is really more of an exploration than a trail. From the parking area, you can scramble down into the badlands. Turn left, and you’ll soon find yourself in a narrow (less than 3-foot-wide (1-meter-wide) in some places) canyon. It’s cool, and especially fun for children who enjoy finding new places. For other tight squeezes, there are several side canyons. The entre hike can be less than 1 mile (1.6 km), but it’s well worth the drive to it. I haven’t written about this hike yet, but this link has good directions to The Slot parking area and trail information. […]
[…] The Slot, Split Mountain, Wind Caves, Elephants Knees, Cactus Loop, Borrego Springs Metal Sculptures, Salton […]
[…] For more information on hiking The Slot, visit hikespeak.com. […]
[…] spend a couple days with us as well. We explored slot canyon and the wind caves. The second week has seen some crazy rain for the area. This area of the […]
[…] Easy hike, but a bit difficult to get the baby through some tight squeezes. We ended up carrying her in arms through most of it since she couldn’t fit through in the baby carrier. We had to ‘pass the baby’ through in some spots! BUT, man, it was worth it. A walking toddler could do this hike with a little help. It took us about 30 minutes to do the whole thing. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Read more about The Slot here. […]
[…] Who knew there was a slot canyon this close to the metropolises of LA & SD?! Seriously, this thing rivals canyons I’ve hiked in Arizona and Utah. An easy .8 mi shaded stroll, and oh-so photogenic. Only a 25 minute/15 mile drive from the center of Borrego Springs. Detailed driving & trailhead directions here. […]
[…] You can find more information about the Slot hike from hikespeak.com to help with your trip planning […]
Is this hike suitable for elderly people who are mobile but slow – walk with a cane ?
Is this too difficult for senior citizens?
I think the hike would not be so suitable for canes. I was there this weekend, and although a great little hike, it can be very sandy in some spots, a few little tight spots, and a little climbing (very little). It seems that there would be the opportunity to slip with the cane in my opinion.
I want to plan a trip to your state park the weekend of October 14-15, 2017 and wanted advise on what is the best time to start a hike from the Hellhole Canyon to Maidehair Falls? If we choose not to camp at the anza-Borrego campgrounds, is there parking available where we can park prior to starting our hike?
Is Borrego Wash difficult to drive with front wheel drive? Or can it make it to the slot parking?
What type of vehicle did you have when you visited?
[…] you plan on hiking in Slot Canyon, here’s a great hiking resource for what to expect. It explains in detail how to get into the canyon, as well as your options for […]
The trail access information for the slot in this article is incorrect. A proper trail head with a more gentle descent has been built off the wider trail at the right of the parking area. Follow the marked signs to the trail marker. Do not take the steep route down through the parking lot. There are some caution signs posts now but we did it anyway based on the advice in this article, which was a mistake!
The Slot is no longer free. Because of COVID the area has seen a huge increase in visitors. The State now charges $10 and they have a staffed checkpoint set up to make sure you pay.
No Dog are allowed on this trail. It would have been nice to know that BEFORE driving two hours to get there! Really important type info. And what jerks won’t allow a dog on a hiking trail?
This article is incorrect about a trail after the slot looping back to the trail head via a jeep trail to the left upon exiting the slot. I tried this and ended up getting lost and ended up calling 911 to get rescued. This so called long way back to the trailhead is complicated since the unmarked jeep trail branches a lot. I ran out of water and nearly died since I was only expecting an extra mile per this article. Thank goodness I eventually got to a spot with cell service. Whatever you do, please just turn around and back track through the slot to get back to the trailhead. Venturing onto the jeep trails at the end of the slot is not worth the risk of getting lost. The slot was amazing, I just wished I had not tried taking the jeep trail back to my car. Author, please delete that information about that alternate way back to the car after the slot so that folks know to simply backtrack out.
The Slot Hike is now a day use area. The day use pass is $10.00.